Thursday 8 March 2018 is International Women's Day and as such, this week's look ahead focuses on recent research which ranked countries around the world according to the quality of life of women living there.
To the surprise of many, Saudi Arabia recently announced it would end its longstanding ban on women driving with the change set to come into effect from June 2018. That ban has served as a major symbol of female oppression throughout the world and it has also done huge damage to the kingdom's reputation for years. The situation could improve even further in the years ahead with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman pushing to implement more reforms in order to return the country to moderate Islam. Saudi Arabia isn't alone in how it treats women and a new index has gauged the status of women in different countries.
The global Women, Peace and Security Index was launched by The Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security and the Peace Research Institute of Oslo. It measures women's well-being by assessing various factors such as inclusion, justice and security in 153 countries. Iceland comes first, followed by Norway and Switzerland. The U.S. is in 22nd position and its lack of paid-maternity leave is one possible reason it trails other developed countries. Along with Papua New Guinea, the U.S. is the only country worldwide that doesn't offer new mothers paid maternity leave.
Countries that are less peaceful and unstable tended to score poorly in the index with Afghanistan and Syria both rock bottom. Yemen is also embroiled in conflict and it comes third-last. Pakistan is amongst the worst countries in the index and various studies have shown that domestic violence and "honor killings" are widespread there. Nobel Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai is a key example of just how dangerous Pakistan can get for women. She was shot and nearly killed in 2012 for publicly speaking about women's right to an education.